By Fatima Nda Isaiah
Recently, citizens of the Republic of Uganda, a landlocked country in East-Central Africa, witnessed an internet blackout. The government of that country ordered an internet shutdown on the eve of the presidential election. Tendering an apology for the inconvenience, the Ugandan government said the shutdown was to avoid external interference in the election.
It is however not coincidental that this happened on the eve of a tense election between incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and opposition’s Bobi Wine. President Museveni has been in power for 34 years and has constantly rebuffed calls for his retirement. He has no plans to give up his presidential seat anytime soon.
His major contender, Mr Wine, has beefed up security around himself with fierce looking guards surrounding his house. He has also sent his kids abroad, precisely to the United States to ensure their safety. But despite fearing for his life, Wine is not ready to give up in the political battle. He has decided to be bloody bold and resolute, making up his mind not to back down and flee the country even when it is as dangerous as it may be to oppose Museveni.
Apart from the internet shutdown, Museveni took drastic actions to ensure that he doesn’t lose the election. Currently, many members of Bobi Wine’s team are in detention for making allegations of rigging against the president. Supporters of Bobi Wine are being persecuted for openly supporting the opposition in the presidential race.
The people of Uganda were angry and vowed that if Museveni fraudulently wins there would be protests on the streets, but seeing how the government uses physical force on the citizens, many were afraid to go on the streets and protest.
This situation is similar to the Nigerian situation; the #EndSARS protest debacle is a case in point. Just like in Uganda, the authorities in Nigeria have used physical force on its citizens for openly speaking out against the government. There have been rumours and visual evidence of policemen and soldiers using physical force on its people. The government has not addressed the situation yet just like in Uganda.
Of Course, because we are in third world countries, these incidents didn’t get as much media coverage as they would have if they happened in developed countries. Nigerians can take a cue from what is happening in Uganda where its people don’t make enough effort to educate themselves on what is happening in third world countries.
If there was adequate international media coverage on the situation, maybe the international community could have risen to the occasion. People abroad do not know how much human rights are being violated in African countries every day.
For instance, when Uganda ordered the internet shutdown on the eve of the presidential election, the trade of a groundnut seller, Susan Tafumba, collapsed. Digital rights campaigners condemned the blackout, saying it hit earnings and left citizens unable to pay bills, send money to family and move around. The opposition candidate, Wine, alleged widespread fraud and said the mass switchoff meant that he could not communicate with his observers at polling stations and share evidence of electoral violations.
Until Africans begin to learn how to firmly fight for their rights, we would continue to be slave to authoritarian governments. Our media should learn to partner with foreign media to ensure that human rights abuse does not go unotice.